Category Archives: Water Quality

Sign on to the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition’s Objection to the DEQ’s Water Quality Certification Proposal

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has filed an eight-page objection to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s) Water Quality Certification proposal that would allow all utility projects in Virginia to be regulated under a generalized Nationwide 12 permit.  The DPMC argues that the issuance of the proposed Water Quality Certification would be illegal, because the DEQ has not conducted the required analysis of the impacts on water quality standards; furthermore, the generalized conditions under the Nationwide permit cannot possibly protect the great variety of waters that would be affected across the state by utility projects, nor can they account for the large variation in project conditions encountered by the many different utility line projects (ranging from small to very large) that would be covered under the general permit.

Bold Alliance has created an online petition by which you can add your name to the DPMC’s objection to the DEQ’s Water Quality Certification proposal.  The petition is an easy way for you to voice your concern for the protection of Virginia’s streams and wetlands during construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other utility projects across the state. 

The Virginia DEQ is currently accepting comments on the proposed Water Quality Certification, but the deadline is this Friday, March 17th!  Be sure to sign Bold Alliance’s online petition by this Friday.  You can also submit comments to the DEQ regarding the Water Quality Certification by email:  Comments should be submitted to Steven.Hardwick@deq.virginia.govAgain, the deadline for comments is this Friday, March 17, 2017 by 11:59 pm.

To learn more about the proposed Water Quality Certification, read our earlier post here at Friends of Nelson or read the DPMC’s detailed post about this issue, “Permission to Pollute.”

Tell the Virginia DEQ to Reject the Water Quality Certification of the Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide 12 Permit

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) reports this week that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is considering a proposal to issue a Water Quality Certification (WQC) that would allow parties to build utility lines, including large gas pipelines, through streams and wetlands across Virginia with only the limited, generalized requirements for waterbody crossings that are stipulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide permit (NWP 12).  According to the DPMC, such generalized conditions under the Nationwide permit cannot possibly protect the great variety of waters that would be affected across the state by utility projects, nor can they account for the large variation in project conditions encountered by the many different utility line projects (ranging from small to very large) that would be covered under the general permit.

Despite the fact that the DEQ is charged with ensuring that all Virginia water quality standards are met for such utility projects, the DPMC reports that the DEQ has performed no analysis to look at the impacts of NWP 12 activities on water quality standards. The DPMC requested all supporting documentation for the DEQ’s proposed regulatory action and received only five documents that show that no analysis of impacts was even attempted, let alone completed.

The DEQ has suggested that it may attempt to cover the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline under this generalized WQC if the Corps of Engineers deems them eligible for coverage under NWP 12.  The DPMC asserts that such an action would be illegal and argues that this proposal cannot be justified on legal or scientific grounds even for the many smaller utility projects that the WQC would cover.

The Virginia DEQ is currently accepting comments on the proposed Water Quality Certification, so you have an opportunity to make your voice heard on this issue.  Contact the DEQ and tell them to reject the Water Quality Certification of the Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide 12 Permit.  Comments should be submitted to Steven.Hardwick@deq.virginia.govThe deadline for comments is this Friday, March 17, 2017 by 11:59 pm.

To read the DPMC’s full statement on its position regarding the DEQ’s consideration of the proposal to issue a Water Quality Certification that would allow parties to build utility lines through Virginia’s waterbodies under a generalized Nationwide 12 permit, click here

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The ACP in Our National Forests: FERC’s Problematic DEIS and How You Can Help

Photo by Lynn Cameron

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) released a new story map this week about the major problems with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP’s) route through the National Forests.  The report highlights seven major issues with the DEIS and provides information on how you can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit that would allow construction of the ACP through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests.

The DPMC has identified seven problem areas in the DEIS for the ACP:

  1. The request for an amendment to the forest plans for the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests would lower standards for soil retention, water quality protection, harvesting old growth trees, crossing the Appalachian Trail, construction of roads in a Scenic River Corridor, and the maintenance of scenic integrity.
  2. The construction of the ACP and its many access roads would result in significant loss of forestland and increased forest fragmentation.  A total of 2,406 acres of core forestland would be lost in the National Forests.  This impact cannot be mitigated.
  3. The DEIS fails to acknowledge and address the many endangered and sensitive species that will be negatively impacted by the ACP.  The DEIS only identifies five species that would be adversely affected, but the US Fish & Wildlife Service has identified 30 federally threatened or endangered species, 2 designated critical habitats, 1 proposed species, 5 proposed critical habitats, and 6 species under review for federal listing that are known to occur along the ACP route.  Furthermore, forest fragmentation or slight shifts in the route of the ACP could negatively impact many additional species.  Many of the biological surveys for special species may not be completed until September 2017; therefore, survey results are not included in the DEIS.  The DEIS is thus incomplete with regard to impacts to sensitive species and cannot inform the Forest Service regarding its decision to issue a Special Use Permit. 
  4. The ACP will threaten water quality in pristine streams and rivers in the National Forests.  The ACP and it access roads would cross 58 streams in the National Forests, including 26 native brook trout streams.
  5. The ACP route passes through high-hazard areas with steep terrain that would be prone to severe erosion, landslides, and harmful stream sedimentation.  The DEIS identified over 100 possible slope instability hazard locations along the proposed ACP route.  The Forest Service asked Dominion to provide detailed plans for 10 high-hazard areas with steep slopes, unstable soils, and problematic bedrock types, but, due to Dominion’s lack of a timely response, this information is not in the DEIS.
  6. The proposed use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to cross the Appalachian Trail at the Augusta County–Nelson County line poses a substantial risk of failure and environmental damage, given workspace limitations and the topographic and geologic characteristics of the proposed drilling locations.  The Forest Service has stipulated that its issuance of a permit for the ACP to cross National Forest lands is contingent on the successful completion of the HDD under the Appalachian Trail.
  7. The ACP passes through some of the most scenic locations in the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and would destroy the scenic integrity of these areas.  The DEIS states that the ACP would not meet Forest plan standards for scenic integrity and thus would require a plan amendment to bypass the standards.

You can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit for the ACP and reject forest plan amendments.  The DPMC encourages you to submit comments that emphasize that the DEIS is incomplete, inconsistent, and incorrect and does not provide adequate information for Forest Service decisions.

You can submit comments to FERC through FERC’s online comment system or send written comments to the following address:

Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

Be sure to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s docket number CP15-554-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by mail.  The deadline for comments to FERC regarding the ACP on National Forest lands is April 10, 2017.

For more information on how to send comments to FERC, please visit our FERC page.  To view the DPMC’s excellent story map (which contains much more information that the overview presented here) in its entirety, click here

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Fracking in Virginia: Statewide Transparency and a Local Ban

In the Virginia General Assembly this month, legislation that would have shielded specific concentrations of chemicals used in fracking from public disclosure was rejected in committee in the Senate.  This means that information on fracking fluids will be available by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy.  Such transparency is essential to protecting water quality in areas of Virginia that are subject to fracking now or in the future.

Concerns about water quality and the potential that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could increase pressure for fracking in the western part of Virginia also led the Augusta County Board of Supervisors to ban fracking in Augusta County.  The board voted six to one last week to pass the prohibition, making Augusta County the first county in Virginia to ban fracking.  The mountains of Augusta County contain shale deposits, which contain the gas that is extracted by fracking, and the county serves as the headwaters for the James and Potomac rivers. 

You can read more about the General Assembly’s move to preserve transparency with regards to fracking and the Augusta County fracking ban in the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s article, “Virginia Agency Says It Will Not Exempt Information on Fracking Fluid from Disclosure.”  You can also read more about the Augusta County fracking ban in the News Leader’s article, “Augusta First County in Va. to Ban Fracking.” 

Governor Must Protect Virginia’s Waters from Bad Pipeline Projects

David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, has written an excellent opinion piece, titled “Virginia’s Governor Can and Must Protect Us from Bad Pipeline Projects,” in The Roanoke Times this week on the subject of the Governor’s responsibility and duty to protect Virginia waters from the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

Sligh asserts that Virginia’s governor (current or future) “will play a decisive role in determining whether major interstate natural gas pipelines can be built across our state. To play that role correctly, the governor must do two things: make certain the regulatory process for state environmental review is complete and open to the public and empower environmental regulators to reject the projects unless they can ensure full protection of Virginia’s waters. The evidence currently in the public record makes approval impossible for both pipelines.

According to Sligh, “Congress explicitly reserved states’ authorities to veto federally-permitted projects, to protect state waters. That authority comes from section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which empowers states to grant or deny a ‘water quality certification’ and forbids federal approval without that certification.”  Many cases exist in which other states have denied approval for federal projects, including pipelines, due to their failure to adhere to 401 certification guidelines.  Both the ACP and the MVP exhibit these same deficiencies, and as such, the Governor and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) should insist upon individual section 401 reviews, with public involvement, for the pipelines to ensure full protection of Virginia’s waters.

“Instead,” Sligh states, “agency employees said these pipelines might be covered under blanket approvals issued for a category of small projects with minimal impacts. Such an approach would be illegal and we will not accept it. Neither should the governor. DEQ’s requests for sufficient information and adequate protections for MVP cannot remain mere suggestions or requests for proper regulation by FERC. They must become legal mandates from the DEQ.” 

Governor McAuliffe and/or Virginia’s next governor must commit to protecting Virginia’s waters by conducting full, public reviews for both the ACP and MVP.  Our governor bears the responsibility to protect our water and should not green light unsafe and improperly researched pipeline projects for the sake of financial gain.  He can and must ensure that the DEQ conducts full reviews for these pipelines, as required by law.

To read Sligh’s opinion piece in The Roanoke Times in its entirety, click here

Inspection of Buildings, Water Supplies


Some Nelson landowners with property either on or close to the route have been contacted by Dominion’s contractors to ask for permission to inspect their buildings and/or wells. Friends of Nelson believes Dominion is trying to amass pre-construction data so that if landowners later complain that their foundations have cracked or their well is no longer producing as much good water, there will be a basis for comparison.

Although we recommend that people consult with their own lawyers about whether to allow these inspections (which are separate from the pipeline surveys authorized under VA Code 56-49.01), attorneys at Appalachian Mountain Advocates have said that they see little downside to allowing the inspections: if Dominion has a record from their own contractors that the water supply was good before the pipeline, it will be harder for them to shirk responsibility if wells go bad during/after construction.

However, we are also recommending that people INSIST on getting a copy of the report. That way, if there is anything that indicates existing problems, or somehow seems incorrect, they can arrange for re-testing with a different contractor on their own in order to confirm/refute the results.

Indeed, Friends of Nelson recommends that folks who are concerned about potential impacts to their water source get well-documented, baseline water data NOW. Then, if the pipeline is actually built, they should continue to monitor during construction and for a period afterwards.

With the support of Friends of Nelson and a number of other organizations, an excellent guide to water supply monitoring has been produced by Downstream Strategies. The guide is nearly 50 pages; note that the actual “How To” of monitoring starts on p.22, and there is also list of independent consultants that landowners can hire to do the work starting on p. 36.

If you have questions or want further information, please email friendsofnelson@gmail.com; give us your phone number so we can call you back.